Photocontrol of cell adhesion mechanism

Agreement No.
Place of implementation of the project
LIOS, Aizkraukles iela 21, Riga, Latvia
Implementation period
01.06.2021. – 31.05.2023.
Project manager
Dr. Rossella Castagna
Total cost
140 202,24 EUR (ERDF funding – 119 171,90 EUR)
The aim of the project

Design of photocontrolled cell-cell adhesion protein modulators, using fragment-based drug discovery

Project activities
  • protein expression and purification;
  • structure based virtual screening (VS) and Fragment based drug discovery (FBDD);
  • design and synthesis of photoswitchable analogues of cell adhesion protein inhibitors;
  • characterization of complex protein-hit fragments;
  • design and production of biomimicking surfaces;
  • functional adhesion assays;
  • secondment, dissemination of scientific results and  communication to the general public.

The results of the study will be used to reiterate the relevance of the photopharmacology approach in biomedicine. The design of photocontrolled molecules for biomedical applications may lead to new drugs with limited side effects and enhanced specificity compared to current therapeutic agents.

Publication date 01.09.2021.

The project has started on 01.06.2021 and the operative plan has been discussed with the head of Biotechnology group which host the project.

The experimental activity continued with the design of bioinspired surfaces and the definition of criteria for the selection of the best experimental approach.

The training activity within WP1 led the principal investigator to complete the "Antimicrobial resistance" course organized by the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) and offered through Coursera (online course provider).

Publication in peer-reviewed international journal SN Comprehensive Clinical Medicine: International Scientific Collaboration Is Needed to Bridge Science to Society: USERN2020 Consensus Statement | SpringerLink

Publication date 01.09.2021.

The project activity continues with the design of biohybrid materials and photoswitchable compounds to modulate cell-cell adhesion. Regarding the development of photoswitchable drugs, the principal investigator signed a collaboration research agreement N 1.1.-5/28 with the Institute of Bioengineering of Catalonia, Barcelona (Spain) to carry out photopharmacological research in their facilities.


As part of the training activity planned in WP2, the principal investigator attended the Summer School on Drug Design (online mode) 13-17 September 2021 at the University of Vienna, focusing on pharmacoinformatics. As results of attendance to the school and poster presentation the principal investigator received 4 ECTS from the University of Vienna and expanded her competences on virtual screening and docking analysis.


The principal investigator delivered a poster presentation at the “EUROPIN Summer school on Drug Design- SSDD21 13-17 September 2021 (Online) titled: “Design of photoswitchable acetylcholinesterase inhibitors” and an invited talk at the USERN International Congress (online – Organized by Universal Scientific Education and Research Network (USERN)), 06-13 November 2021 titled “Biohybrid electrospun materials: the role of complex interfaces”(08.11.2021).


Publication date 30.11.2021.

A review paper discussing, among other things, the field of photocontrol of protein-protein interactions in microtubule formation through photopharmacology has been published in Frontiers in Molecular Bioscience. Susanna Eli*, Rossella Castagna*, Marina Mapelli, Emilio Parisini. Recent approaches to the identification of novel microtubule-targeting agents Frontiers in Molecular Biosciences. DOI: 10.3389/fmolb.2022.841777

*shared first authorship


Training activities have been followed on Circular Dichroism spectroscopy from Jasco company and Isothermal Titration Calorimetry (ITC) from Malvern company in the framework of the training activities on biophysical techniques (WP4).


Project PI attended the training course “Horizon Europe: Quick guide to tackle gender dimension and cross-cutting issues - Expert Insights” held by EMDESK Academy (10 February, 2022 Online).

Dissemination 11.02.2022: Project PI was a speaker for the International Day of Women in Science (11th February 2022) at a communication event organized by the Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology (BIST) delivering a talk on scientific activity and virtual guided lab tours targeting school students. (Online – Escola Gaspar, Barcelona - Spain).


Publication date 28.02.2022.